It’s Not About the Candidates – It’s About the Causes that Count
When it comes to this year’s presidential election, sides have been drawn, mud has been slung and more than a few nasty words have been exchanged. And the most interesting element so far has been how certain age groups have come to perceive what is most important during this election race. In the minds of baby boomers it’s the candidate’s character and party affiliation; when it comes to millennials, they’re clearly focused on the issues that impact them most. So when you take into consideration that millennials outnumber baby boomers in America today by half a million, it becomes clear that this ideology is a platform that needs be taken seriously
The team behind the MTV Elect This platform took this to heart when developing the brand’s campaign website. With a goal to think beyond static boundaries and to serve up an informed pathway that went beyond just red or blue, the mission was clear: let ideas drive exploration – not candidate identities.
MTV VP of Public Affairs Ronnie Cho credits the early success of the Elect This agenda to the fact that most of the content is issue based and not candidate based. “We didn’t even know when it launched who the candidates would be,” he explains. “But the ‘who’ isn’t what matters to the young people today. This generation doesn’t subscribe to politics in ‘left or right’ terms.”
This underscores the larger trend of millennials curating and customizing everything in their worlds – from politics to music. For example, they don’t buy albums; they create playlists. In the same way, they don’t pick a political party; they pick and choose what issues matter to them.
And they agree on a lot of their biggest issues, according to MTV’s Insights, Youth Culture & Trends team.
This includes an overwhelming majority in favor of marriage equality – 76% call it an “important step”, climate change initiatives – 84% in favor of emissions taxes and marijuana legalization – 89% in favor.
In many instances, their progressive leanings may sprout from being more connected to others than any other generation before them. Thanks to social media, expanded travel and increased diversity in schools and colleges across the country, millennials have a unique firsthand experience that allows them to understand each other and embrace their differences while also seeking out commonalities and shared dreams across age, race, gender and sexual orientation.
As Cho explains, “Our parents and grandparents may have never known someone who was openly gay, who was a person of color or of a different faith. Now, diverse communities and mobile and social connectedness offer millennials a powerful way to empathize with our common humanity.” This is undoubtedly reflected in their aligned opinions.
While research confirms that millennials are often apathetic to politics and the role of traditional government, they’re not really apathetic to the idea of change. They’re just not willing to wait around for someone else to enact it. They believe actions speak louder than words. They rigorously support social movements like Black Lives Matter. And, they’re not afraid to protest perceived injustices like the ones seen at Standing Rock. All this comes down to millennials truly wanting change but not seeing politics as the most effective route to achieve it.
Cho stresses the importance of millennials in the election process: “This generation is the largest and most diverse that the country’s ever seen. They’ve faced some of the most daunting challenges than any other [generation] has since WWII. And this is the one that will save the world – because it has to. Politicians who ignore what millennials want and demand are doing so at their own political peril.”
This warning certainly rings true on Election Day. As citizens and marketers look to the future, this imperative will become especially relevant in the next two election cycles, which are expected to surface nominees from more than two factions and further propel millennial ideals. This will likely force future candidates to take a step back and look hard at their strategy. Is it really about winning votes over or laying down a foundation for change that’s both actionable and inspiring to the next generation?